Understanding the Most Common Nutrient Deficiencies in a Vegan Diet

by Dr. Nick Zyrowski September 05, 2023

If you were to believe the hype these days, you’d be sure that a plant-based diet is the way to go for a healthy lifestyle. From news outlets to political pundits, people are pushing this diet. Many food debates today aren’t about food at all. Some of them are only economically based. So many of these so-called “healthy” ingredients aren’t healthy at all. In addition, the vegan diet can be filled with misinformation and lots of nutrient deficiencies. We take a look at some of those in this article and give you information on what you can do to be healthier.

Eat your veggies

Before we go any further, we want to point out that we aren’t telling anyone not to eat vegetables. There are tons of healthy veggie options that we love to include in a healthy diet. Are there times when you may need to remove vegetables from your diet? That can be a possibility if you suffer from autoimmune issues or other health problems. Otherwise, we recommend veggies for people who can tolerate them.

Plant-based myth

Unfortunately, many people are touting that the plant-based diet is superior and will make you healthier than other diets. That’s simply not the case. The truth is that these popular plant-based diets frequently contain numerous inflammatory ingredients that can wreck your health. They are also often deficient in essential vitamins and minerals. The mentality that you’re healthier if you don’t eat meat is a myth. (1)

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient found almost only in meat sources. That means you can get it from fish, meat, eggs, and some dairy products. It’s a water-soluble nutrient that is involved in red blood cell development and helps maintain nerves and normal brain function. Studies show that many vegetarians are at a high risk of deficiency without proper supplementation. If you want to know your levels, you can always use a vitamin B12 kitand take a test at home.


Iron is necessary for healthy red blood cell production. People on a plant-based diet are at a higher risk for iron deficiency. Anemia can quickly become a problem because iron is found mostly in meat sources. When giving up all meat, dairy, and eggs, it gets hard to balance getting the proper amount of iron from other sources. The research thus far shows that vegan diets can lead to iron deficiencies. (2)


You’d have to eat a lot of beans and tofu to get the amount of protein you need to feel satiated and include the essential amino acids you need for your body. Rather than consuming healthy protein through poultry, meat, fish, or other animal products, vegans must eat a variety of protein sources to compensate for the missing nutrients. Some of these may have numerous unhealthy ingredients in them. For example, plant-based burgers are typically heavily processed and contain inflammatory ingredients that can be harmful to your body. (3)

Vitamin D3

When we mention vitamin D, some vegan purists will always say they get enough of the nutrient from sunlight. We always want you to get nutrients through natural sources when possible, but there are varying degrees of absorbing vitamin D. Many things play a part, like age, skin color, your location, and lifestyle. Do you spend enough time outdoors, or are you stuck inside most of the time? Animal sources are rich in vitamin D. Consuming foods like egg yolks, fatty fish, and raw milk can be great choices. Research has shown that the dietary intake of vitamin D is much lower in vegans than in those who consume a diet that includes animal products. (4)


Carnosine is an antioxidant you may not hear much about, but it is crucial for proper muscle function. High levels of carnosine have been linked to decreased muscle fatigue and better performance. It is only found in animal-based foods unless you get it in supplement form. (5) Studies report that vegans have less carnosine in their muscles than people who eat meat.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are important for inflammation reduction. They are essential for your body to function well. Many vegans will consume nuts and seeds to compensate for not getting these essential fatty acids from meat sources. The problem is these foods only contain ALA, which needs to be converted to EPA and DHA. The estimation is that only five to ten percent gets converted, which means most of the plant-based EPA and DHA are lost during digestion. (6)


You know you need zinc for your immune system. Some grains contain zinc, but the bioavailability from those sources is lower than zinc obtained from animal sources. That happens due to the phytates from grain inhibiting zinc’s absorption. According to the NIH, vegans are an at-risk group for zinc inadequacy. (7) If you are eating a vegan diet, you will most likely need to take a quality zinc supplement.

Don’t believe the hype

For the past several years, we have been told to trust the science behind decisions that were supposedly made on our behalf. It’s shocking to see how so many in the healthcare profession and government are pushing this lifestyle when it’s based on no science whatsoever. We know there are lots of gurus and television personalities who are making this a trend and saying it’s also better for the environment. It’s rooted in false information and propaganda, leading you to an unhealthy lifestyle if you follow it.

When you want a truly healthy diet, you should eat according to your specific dietary needs. If you need some assistance, functional medicine can help you fill in the gaps. The healthcare system is broken today, but we don’t want you to fall prey to fancy marketing schemes and expensive products that do nothing for your health. Contact us today to learn more about the science of holistic medicine.


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Dr. Nick Zyrowski
Dr. Nick Zyrowski

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